The Gilded age of America was a period of prosperity for some peopleand misery for others, but marked with overall success in creatingthe modern America. In the book Devil in the White City byEric Larson’s the Gilded Age is described using two characters onea murderer and the other an architect who helps in creating a new erain the country. The country fair in Chicago is used to show thedifferent sides of urbanization which include the good and the evilas the firm expanded, so did the city. It grew economically, expandedand also become very dangerous and dirtier (Larson 2004, p.27) The era was marked by prosperity and numerous positive changesfor Americans and also misery and sorrow for others hence is a periodof good and evil. This essay will address The Gilded Age regardingthe opposing forces of modernization with the good being representedby Burnham and the country fair and evil by human suffering andHolmes.
The book presents two powerful people all with different intents withthe organization and creation of the greatest fair in history. TheGilded Age was an era of majesty and prosperity created by men likeBurnham with ambition and great vision. "Make no littleplans they have no magic to stir men`s blood” (Larson, 2004,p.26) shows the determination and ambition of the Gilded Age that ledto prosperity. Burnham was able to create a successful event, offerpeople jobs, better benefits and build the majestic white city in ashort time frame. “Chicago has disappointed her enemies andastonished the world.” (Larson, 2004, p.273). The white citywas responsible for the economic prosperity of the age by bringingpeople and also creating careers and ambitious nation using thebuilding as a vision for a better future. In the turn of the centuryChicago, there is a transformation which characterizes the good.
The Gilded Age is also a period of suffering for the immigrants insearch of opportunities and was a period of immense suffering andnumerous people living in poverty. The situation of the immigrantscan be clearly seen by numerous women lured, tortured and killed byHolmes. The search of greener pastures led to increased suffering forsome and benefits for a limited class of people. “Inthe end, it is a story of the ineluctable conflict between good andevil, daylight and darkness, the White City and the Black.” (Larson,2004, p. 5). Thewhite city just like Burnham, who is charming and seems to be a goodcitizen hides the horrors of modernization and lures people to theirmisery, sorrow and death.
The GildedAge also was characterized by corruption, greed and desire forpersonal success as seen through the life of Holmes. The Age is alsocharacterized by increased violence and crimes, as well as unionproblems with increasing immigrants and loss of jobs. Burnham projectstrains and challenges, including funding and monitoring show howminority benefited from corruption and greed while others suffered(Larson, 2004, p. 139). Hewas involved in numerous schemes and murders as well as self-interestprojects like the reconstruction of his torture chambers to a hotel.The Gilded Age was also responsible for enlightening the people andwas responsible for numerous innovations marking the period (Larson,2004, p. 219).
The Gilded Age characterizes themodernization of America and has opposing forces of competition,ambition, greed, ruthlessness which are contributing factors to themisery of the workers. Devil in the White City with itssetting in Chicago during the world’s fair contrasts two ambitiousand qualified men and is useful encapsulating the history of theGilded Age in America. In conclusion, the Gilded Age was a period ofprosperity as well as suffering, good and evil as can be seen fromEric Larson’s Devil in the White City.
Larson,E. (2004). Thedevil in the white city.Random House.